Sunday, July 22
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6: 30-34
The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.
The opening of this gospel continues from last week. In that gospel passage we heard that the disciples had been sent out two by two to preach repentance. They are back now and have reported to Jesus all that they had done and taught. Jesus is going to take them off to a deserted place for what was to be for some R& R. It did not work out that way. Lots of people found out where Jesus had gone, and they hastened to follow on foot, hoping to get to the place before the boat that Jesus had taken arrived on the shore. They were successful, and they were waiting when Jesus arrived.
The last sentence in today’s passage is what drew me in to this story. When Jesus saw the vast crowd, Mark tells us that “his heart was moved with compassion for them.” Jesus was not just moved with compassion; he did something. Today we might call this consequential compassion. As I reflected on this, a line from Psalm 95 came into my mind: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.” Disciples of Jesus must keep a soft heart, if they are to see and hear the needs of their brothers and sisters. Disciples of Jesus need a soft heart if it is to be moved by compassion. I wondered, in the past few months, have I had a hard heart, blinded to the needs of our brothers and sisters, or has my heart been moved with compassion? Did the compassion urge me to do something in response?
The Ash Wednesday shooting in Parkland, FL in February moved my heart with compassion. That led me to participate in the March for Our Lives in downtown Columbus and to write to Ohio senators and representatives to plead for changes in our gun policies, especially to abolish the easy availability of assault weapons. What else has moved my heart these past months? I, like millions of others, waited anxiously as the story of the twelve boys and their leader trapped in a Thai cave began to unfold before our eyes. So many people were moved by compassion and came from across the world to rescue them. We experienced the sadness as one of our Navy Seals gave his life trying to rescue the boys, and then, we all shared in the rejoicing when all the boys were pulled to safety. My heart was moved with compassion when I heard of the story of the thousands of children separated from their parents at our border. My heart was moved with compassion by a four-year-old girl who was born with cerebral palsy. Then, after her surgery, Maya screamed in joyous delight, “I am walking! I am walking!” My heart was moved with compassion as I sat with so many of our parish families this month and grieved with them over the loss of a loved one. Jesus was teaching the crowds in the gospel today, but he was teaching us as well. With so much happening in our world today and at such a rapid pace, we might be tempted to slip into “compassion fatigue” and be numb to the people and events around us. That is not an option for a disciple. That is not what Jesus is teaching us in today’s Gospel. Jesus was tired, the disciples were tired. They had gone away hoping for a rest. That was not to be. Following Jesus’ example, we must always be open to seeing our brothers and sisters and allowing our heart to be moved with compassion. Take time today to look back over the past months to identify the places where your heart was moved by compassion and then ask, “What did I do about it?” The second part is the hardest. It is not enough to be moved by compassion, we must be open to doing something about it. We cannot do everything nor respond to everything, but what we can do, we must do.
Sister Teresa Tuite, OP